The first ever Wikipedia Conference in India flagged off today at the Convocation Hall of the University of Mumbai (Fort Campus). The ongoing conference (Nov 18 to Nov 20) will offer Wiki editors, users and developers of Wikimedia products an opportunity to interact and exchange ideas, discuss on issues and also collaborate for future products. In a keynote addressed to the press and Wikipedians, its founder Jimmy Wales spoke about the Wiki experience in local languages. Enthusiastic Wales didn’t miss on adding a touch of humor at several instances during the speech.

Jimmy Wales at Wiki Conference 2011

Jimmy Wales at Wiki Conference 2011

Jimmy called it the 'biggest Wiki conference ever'. English language editors are vast, but even small contribution towards a local language can help, he said. One of the major problem faced while creating database for smaller local languages used by a certain community of people is access to keyboard entry methods in that language. He also suggests that larger communities need rules, but these rules can be diluted for languages spoken by smaller communities. English Wiki has more than 3 million contributors. However, the contribution for Hindi translation, inspite of the approximate 280 million Hindi speaking population is quite low. 

Wiki Conference 2011

Wiki Conference 2011

Wales encourages page translations in local languages rather than machine translations. He says, machine translations lose out the cultural aspect. He also points out the need for a modern UI, just like how simpler and easier it is on Facebook. “Knowledge is the path to peace. We must study what our opponents believe too,” said Wales. 

Another issue is sometimes a Wikipedian may face some problem but it may not be viewed as a problem by the Wiki team. In one such complaint by a visually impaired user, Wales decided to look into the matter himself along with a Wiki team member.

Smaller languages can do quite well; one such successful example is Finnish which is used by about 3 million people. To encourage more local languages, he put forth the ‘Wikipidean of the year’ award. He hopes that an Indian wins the prize next year, not before and also shooting out, “Which Indian language will grow the most?”

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